One of the key factors that made Airbus more competitive to Boeing airplanes is the ‘cockpit commonality’. When Airbus engineers were looking for ways to reduce weight and save on fuel cost while designing A320 in late 80’s, they found a way to reduce weight by introducing fly-by-wire technology that reduced weight significantly and paved the way for the all new concept of “cockpit commonality”
Airlines and pilots took full advantage of the Airbus commonality concept, making aircraft operations, training and maintenance easier while reducing the costs associated with pilot training time.
Traditionally 400 seat jumbo jets fly differently than 100 seat aircraft, which required pilots to be trained in different types of aircraft. On Airbus jets, pilot tells the computer what to do, and all the adjustments are done by central computer that flew the plane as per the pilot’s command. The fly-by-wire system transformed flying into command based rather than feedback based, which allowed pilots to be trained in couple days to switch types.
Pilots would take weeks of training when switching models in early Boeing planes and even Airbus A300 and A310 models; and that cost a lot for airlines. Airlines were writing big checks to train their pilots. National airline of Belgium, Shabena said to have saved $2.2 million annually in pilots training cost when it became all Airbus airliner in 1997, Austrian airlines said to have saved $6.5 million over 5 years, and Air Canada president in 2001, said in an interview with wall street journal, “its real saving”..with Airbus jets….”training time can be slashed from 30 days to 3 days”
This is the turning point for Airbus that challenged 100 year old Boeing.. innovative technology broke the barrier for Airbus. Now all airplanes manufactures are for commonality in their designs.. Industry will not be surprised to see commonality between Airbus and Boeing in future…